Observations on the July Democratic Debates — Second Night

Laura Nelson
3 min readAug 1, 2019


I watched this debate at a bar in the West Village with my friend. There were two advantages to doing so: watching the debates on television with an audience, and alcohol. The first of these reinforced my utter contempt for television news: CNN and NBC are treating the debates not as news but as television — reality television, to be more precise. Moderators — especially Jake Tapper — shaped what we saw not as the rational examination of policies but as spectacle, and the candidates, well aware of their surroundings, took the bait. The alcohol — Brooklyn Lager — helped the idiocy go down more gently.


Bill DeBlasio was heckled by protestors for failing to take action against the policeman who put Eric Garner in the chokehold that killed him. Good. He deserves it. His vanity campaign offers more evidence that he is a fraud, not quite of Trumpian proportions but approaching it. He is a Clinton neoliberal wearing a Warren-Sanders sheepskin and always has been. At least his nemesis Andrew Cuomo does not disguise his centrist yuppie-Democrat essence. Both are sad and awful remnants of the 1990s Democratic Party. I hear Mario Cuomo rolling in his grave.


Debate is a matter of the giving and taking of reasons, with the employment of rhetoric to enhance the appearance and hence the acceptance of those reasons. It is not sustained yelling and insulting. Feigned outrage and sincere nastiness was an éminence grise in the first debate, held in check by the bravura team performance of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But it monopolized the second debate. There was little in it beyond sentiments like “Biden sucks”, “Harris sucks”, and “taxes!” Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, and Jay Inslee retained their dignity, but dignity alone does not cut it. It was awful.


Barack Obama’s coattails are long, but not as long as the train on Meghan Markle’s wedding gown or a CVS receipt. Biden tried to win by riding on Obama’s coattails, but his record is nowhere near impressive as is Obama’s — who, frankly, was not as successful a president as he is made out to be (e.g., deportations, drone warfare, too willing to compromise with Republicans who were not). Moderation is no longer a…



Laura Nelson

Writer, philosopher, information technologist,guitarist, neurotic, polite radical, avid and indiscriminate reader, Episcopalian, trans woman.